Sunday, December 27, 2009

Homily for the Feast
of the Holy Family

Dec. 27, 2009
Ps 84: 2-3, 5-6, 9-10
Willow Towers, New Rochelle

“Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord” (Ps 84: 5).

Being in the house of the Lord is the evident theme of the Sacred Scriptures today. Hannah brings her child, the boy Samuel, to the shrine of the Lord at Shiloh—this is before King Solomon has built the great temple in Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant is kept in a tent a Shiloh; so Hannah brings the son for whom she begged the Lord to serve there in Shiloh for the rest of his life. He’ll grow up to become judge over Israel, unofficial leader, ruler, and anointer of kings (Saul, David).

In the 2d reading St. John reminds us that God has given us the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t say it, but we remember from the catechism that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are dwelling places of God as long as we live in his grace.

In the gospel we heard that very familiar story of the child Jesus separating himself from his parents in order to remain in his Father’s house, the great temple in Jerusalem. This story goes so far back in Christian tradition, in the pre-history of our written gospels, that it seems to be unaware of the tradition of the virgin birth, since St. Joseph is 4 times referred to as Jesus’ father. While we understand why Mary would lament publicly, “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48), it is less clear why St. Luke would narrate that “each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem” (2:41), “his parents did not know the boy had remained behind” (2:43), and “when his parents saw him” (2:48). Possibly Luke lacks the nuanced vocabulary that we’d use; perhaps he’s acknowledging the legal status of Jesus, as distinct from his genetic origin, as the son of Joseph.

Be that as it may, Jesus feels drawn to his heavenly Father’s house. Like the psalmist, his soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord; his heart and his flesh cry out for the living God (84:3). There he can pursue his calling of studying the Scriptures with the priests and rabbis who serve and teach there, and of praying and learning his Father’s will for him, of giving due praise to his Father for his love for Israel: “Happy they who dwell in your house! Continually they praise you” (84:5). What better place for God to “look upon the face of his anointed” (84:10), i.e., upon his Christ?

The boy Jesus learned that he could serve his heavenly Father by going back to Nazareth with his mother and foster father and obeying them, growing up into manhood with them. He “advanced in wisdom, age, and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52) in Nazareth, not in Jerusalem, going to the synagog and not to the Temple, living among his relatives and fellow citizens of a very small village, not among the rabbis of the big city.

God can be found, known, studied, and adored wherever he has placed us. The Holy Spirit already dwells with us. The Scriptures are in our homes, and not only in church. We can pray at any time. The Father’s house is more than a physical building. It’s the entire world. It is also the company of our fellow Christians, who are temples of the Spirit just as we are. It is the company of his chosen people Israel, who are his children according to the covenant with Abraham. If we should be able to get out and go to a parish church, that’s a good thing. But even here at Willow Towers we can dwell in the house of the Lord. We have ample opportunity to meet God and be with God and serve God and pray to God all day long: in our Bibles, our practice of kindness toward one another, and our prayer in our own apartments.
Stained glass: Jesus amid the doctors in the temple, cathedral of the Holy Savior, Bruges.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homily for Christmas
Midnite Mass, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters! “A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us.” No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt 28:20). For you the Savior is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His “self” is locked into this dream world that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another. Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence. There are people who describe themselves as “religiously tone deaf.” The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today’s world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us “tone deaf” towards him. And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear “tone deaf” and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself. The great theologian Origen said this: if I had the grace to see as Paul saw, I could even now (during the liturgy) contemplate a great host of angels (cf. in Luke 23 :9). And indeed, in the sacred liturgy, we are surrounded by the angels of God and the saints. The Lord himself is present in our midst. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may become vigilant and clear-sighted, in this way bringing you close to others as well!

Let us return to the Christmas Gospel. It tells us that after listening to the Angel’s message, the shepherds said one to another: “‘Let us go over to Bethlehem’; they went at once” (Luke 2:15-16). “They made haste” is literally what the Greek text says. What had been announced to them was so important that they had to go immediately. In fact, what had been said to them was utterly out of the ordinary. It changed the world. The Savior is born. The long-awaited Son of David has come into the world in his own city. What could be more important? No doubt they were partly driven by curiosity, but first and foremost it was their excitement at the wonderful news that had been conveyed to them, of all people, to the little ones, to the seemingly unimportant. They made haste they went at once. In our daily life, it is not like that. For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: “Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)”. For monks, the liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time. Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbor is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.

Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later. The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to “come over” (cf. Luke 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbors. The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction. Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbors and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell among us. We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him. But a path exists for all of us. The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: “Come on, ‘let us go over’ to Bethlehem to the God who has come to meet us. Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has traveled the longer part of the journey. Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here. Transeamus usque Bethlehem, the Latin Bible says. Let us go there! Let us surpass ourselves! Let us journey towards God in all sorts of ways: along our interior path toward him, but also along very concrete paths the liturgy of the Church, the service of our neighbor, in whom Christ awaits us.

Let us once again listen directly to the Gospel. The shepherds tell one another the reason why they are setting off: “Let us see this thing that has happened.” Literally the Greek text says: “Let us see this Word that has occurred there.” Yes indeed, such is the radical newness of this night: the Word can be seen. For it has become flesh. The God of whom no image may be made because any image would only diminish, or rather distort him this God has himself become visible in the One who is his true image, as Saint Paul puts it (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). In the figure of Jesus Christ, in the whole of his life and ministry, in his dying and rising, we can see the Word of God and hence the mystery of the living God himself. This is what God is like. The Angel had said to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12; cf. 2:16). God’s sign, the sign given to the shepherds and to us, is not an astonishing miracle. God’s sign is his humility. God’s sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love. How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him. Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love. Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood” (in Luke 22:9). Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)” (in Luke 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this holy night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Christmas isn't quite here yet, but "white" came last nite in the form of a winter storm and about six inches of almost-powder snow. I didn't get out this morning with my camera before Bros. Andy and Tom and Fr. Terry were out with the trucks and plows, but here are some almost pristine views of the house and the mission office.









Saturday, December 19, 2009

Homily
for the 4th Sunday of Advent
Dec. 20, 2009
Luke 1: 39-45
Willow Towers, New Rochelle
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison

“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” (Luke 1: 39).

On the last 2 Sundays we’ve heard the preaching of John the Baptist: prepare for the coming of the Messiah. In today’s gospel he comes, borne in Mary’s womb as she visits her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. John the Baptist still figures in the reading—even in his own mother’s womb he recognizes the presence of the Savior in Mary’s womb and leaps with joy.

But the gospel no longer centers on John. Now our attention goes to Mary, who will bring the Messiah to us; Mary, who provides for God’s Son a human body so that, as our 2d reading said, God the Father might prepare for his Son a body to be offered as the ultimate sacrifice pleasing to God for the redemption of the world (Heb 10:5,10).

When Mary comes to Elizabeth’s home in the hill country of Judea—a good, long walk from her home in Nazareth—Elizabeth prophesies, i.e., speaks God-inspired words. For she recognizes the presence of God, of “my Lord,” within Mary: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43).

As an aside, note that phrase “Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” which the Church incorporates, along with other scriptural phrases, in our favorite prayer, the Hail Mary. So many of our prayers are soaked in the Bible, and we hardly realize it.

Elizabeth continues her prophecy by exclaiming, “Blessed are you who believed that what the Lord spoke to you would be fulfilled” (1:45). Not only is Mary’s child blessed, for he is the Lord, but the mother, too, is blessed—our Blessed Mother. Why? Because she believed God’s word. Not because she’s Jesus’ mother, but because she believed. Without believing, she couldn’t have become his mother. Without her believing, God’s plan as we know it couldn’t have unfolded.

This isn’t to say that God wouldn’t have done something else for our salvation, but to say that Mary cooperated with this plan thru her faith, a faith with real-life consequences.

For Mary’s belief in God’s word meant that she said “yes” to the message of the angel Gabriel; the verse with our “Alleluia” today quoted her words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Faith begins in our minds or our hearts, but it has to carry into our wills, our decisions, our words, our actions. Without a “yes,” Mary’s faith would’ve been meaningless, and there’d have been no incarnation of the Son of God, no redemption of the human race. When Mary said “yes” to God, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the eternal Son of God became the human being Jesus Christ our Savior, to be born in time, to die on a cross, to raise us up to God’s grace and immortal life—that divine plan recalled in our Opening Prayer (which, some of you may have noticed, was a variation on the prayer that concludes the Angelus): “lead us thru his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection.”

Here is where we’re called to be blessed, like Mary: in our faith. We can’t conceive God’s Son physically within our bodies. But we can say “yes” to God’s will for our lives. Angels don’t come to us to ask us to undertake extraordinary roles in the plan of salvation. But God speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures that we read—daily, if possible; in the teachings of Christ’s Catholic Church; in the daily events of our lives, both good and bad. God is constantly revealing his will to us, his hopes for us, his love for us, and asking us to respond with faith and then action, like our Blessed Mother.

For instance, God asks us to believe that our families and the people we live with are his children, and we should treat them with kindness, patience, and respect, should help them when we can, should safeguard their reputations by how we speak of them. God asks us to believe that everyone on this planet is his child, and we should support public policies that respect the life and dignity of everyone, and hold our public servants accountable for such policies, and vote for candidates who support human life and dignity. God asks us to believe that he cares about us, and we should read his word, ponder his word, pray to him, thank him, praise him. God asks us to believe that his Son rose from the dead, and thus illness and death are not to be feared but to be withstood and resisted as far as we may reasonably do so, and then accepted as transition stages to the immortal life that comes us thru Mary’s Son: thru suffering and death to the glory of resurrection. Blessed are all who believe that what the Lord has spoken to them will be fulfilled (cf. 1:45)!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Salesians of Don Bosco 150 Years Old
Millions (of Poor and Abandoned Young People) Served since 1859

The largest religious order that Catholics in the United States have never heard of is named after St. Francis de Sales. This year it is celebrating its 150th anniversary. We wonder how many readers of the Salesian Bulletin can guess its identity?
Probably most of them. In case not, here are two more hints: it was founded in northern Italy, and its founder, canonized in 1934, is hugely popular all over the world.

That religious order is the Society of St. Francis de Sales, or the Salesian Society, or the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Salesians, with a membership of 16,092 bishops, priests, brothers, and novices on Jan. 1, 2009, are outnumbered only by the Jesuits (18,711). There are more Salesians worldwide than Franciscans (15,130), Capuchins (11,092), Benedictines (7,558), or Dominicans (6,002)—orders that are from 325 to 1,330 years older than the Salesians.
In their relatively short lifetime the Salesians have risen to great heights in the Catholic hierarchy with 13 cardinals, 5 of whom are living, and 225 other bishops. The 5 living cardinals include the “vice Pope,” i.e., the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; human rights champion Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong; and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras, often listed as papabile (a potential Pope). Among the 112 other living Salesian bishops (2008) are a Nobel laureate, retired Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, and a rising star of the Asian episcopate, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India.

The Salesian Pontifical University, founded in 1940 in Turin and located in Rome since 1965, is highly regarded with schools of theology, philosophy, canon law, education, communications, and Christian and classical literature—the last established at the explicit request of Pope John XXIII.

Six members of the Salesian family (Salesians, Salesian Sisters, Cooperators, pupils) have been canonized as saints, and 114 beatified.

Hierarchical status, however, is neither the glory of the Salesian Society nor the reason for its astounding growth across six continents. Both the reason and the glory lie in its charism: care for the poorest and most abandoned young people, a care exercised in 136 countries through schools, hostels, orphanages, youth centers, catechetical centers, medical clinics, outreach to street children, defense of the rights of child workers, activities against the “sexploitation” of the young, and more.

Beginnings
It all began, Don Bosco said, with a Hail Mary and a simple catechism class in the sacristy of Turin’s St. Francis of Assisi Church on Dec. 8, 1841. But what developed out of that simple catechesis into the apostolate of the oratories in Turin eventually needed to be regularized, to be put onto a solid, permanent foundation. And so on Dec. 9, 1859, Don Bosco invited 19 of his most dedicated staff at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales to think about making a permanent commitment to the work of the oratories, to the care of needy youngsters, by joining him in a religious society to be called, like the first and principal oratory, after St. Francis de Sales.

Nine days later 17 of those helpers responded by meeting with Don Bosco in his tiny room. Aside from Fr. Victor Alasonatti (age 47) and Don Bosco himself (44), the others were all callow youths, none older than 24; Francis Cerruti was only 15. Angelo Savio was a deacon, Michael Rua a subdeacon, the others seminarians except for Louis Chiapale.

The expressed aim of the new religious society was to “promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls, especially of those most in need of instruction and education, while providing the members with mutual help toward their own sanctification”—a twofold aim, really: the salvation of souls, including their own, through apostolic-educational work on behalf of needy youngsters.

It was not an auspicious time for founding a religious order. The Piedmontese government had just gone about suppressing most religious houses and was about to extend that suppression to the rest of the Italian peninsula (most of which was in the process of union with Piedmont to form the united kingdom of Italy). But even the anticlerical government recognized the value of schools and oratories that offered academic education, training in trades, and moral upbringing to the poor, including the orphans of Piedmont’s own war dead. Minister of the Interior Urbano Rattazzi, author of the law suppressing the religious orders, personally advised Don Bosco on how to organize the Salesians so that they would be left alone.

Nor was the government alone in appreciating what Don Bosco was doing and in concern for the future of his work. Pope Pius IX, too, had asked him in 1858 what his plans for its continuation were. That Don Bosco, as well, had been thinking of the future is evidenced in his presenting to the Pope at that time a draft rule of life for his followers—what would eventually develop into the Constitutions of the Salesians.

Growth
The demand for what Don Bosco and his men had to offer was great, and within 25 years the Salesians were spreading to the rest of the Italian peninsula, to France, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. He founded a parallel congregation of sisters in 1872 to work for the souls of girls and young women. The expansion would proceed relentlessly, so much that vocations could scarcely keep up with it.

What was the secret of such growth? Fr. Pascual Chavez calls it Don Bosco’s intuition for youth—not just to serve the young, but to use the young themselves as apostles. Don Bosco was guided in this direction by his dreams in which he gathered lambs around him, and the lambs themselves became shepherds, in which he gathered crowds of boys and young seminarians and brothers around him as his helpers.

Another secret was Don Bosco’s conviction that the Virgin Mary herself was guiding his work through such dreams and through her protection. She wanted those lambs gathered, sheltered, and nurtured for her Son. If St. Francis de Sales was the patron of the work, she was truly its inspiration, foundress, and patroness, and Don Bosco took no step without seeking her assistance.

Continuity
In this 150th year of the Salesian Society, the Rector Major has called upon all of Don Bosco’s sons to reconsecrate themselves to his ideals: to the pursuit of personal holiness, to dedication to the young and the poor. For instance, at last April’s send-off of a glass and steel casket containing a relic of Don Bosco on a worldwide pilgrimage (2009-2015), he said: “Love the young, but above all let them know they are loved. This is the task awaiting us. Now as yesterday the young often experience disappointment, a lack of confidence in themselves, the enormous difficulties in the workplace, a feeling that adult generations and society around them are far removed from them. Like Don Bosco, who modeled himself on the Gospel, and incarnating the Church’s maternal concern for education, today we too are called to organize our lives according to the needs, the aspirations, the rights, and the expectations of the young, praying for them and with them, with a friendly presence sharing with them the various stages of life, in order to free them from harmful experiences and accompany them on their way to Christ.”

The visit of the relic of Don Bosco in every part of the Salesian world will link this 150th anniversary with the coming 200th anniversary of his birth (Aug. 16, 2015). More important, it will remind all the members of the Salesian Family that they are to imitate him in their love for Christ and for young people and are to continue Don Bosco’s mission of working for the salvation of the young: “Da mihi animas.”

The 150th anniversary will culminate on Dec. 18 with celebrations in each Salesian community around the world, which will include their renewal of their religious profession—their personal commitment to Jesus Christ within the Salesian Society on behalf of the young.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the Name of Jesus (and Mary and Joseph)

Also today (Dec. 9), The Anchoress, who was watching Bishop Sheen on What's My Line (courtesy of The Deacon's Bench)--today is the 30th anniversary of the good bishop's death--offered this nostalgic note:
"But I was touched and a little amused to watch Sheen, in his perfect Catholic-school penmanship begin his signature with JMJ. That’s one of those odd things Catholics used to do – put a cross, or the initials of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the top of anything they were about to write. It was a small act, but one packed with meaning. It said, in essence, “Let my communication be worthy of Your Holy Names.”

"On retreat about ten years ago, an aged nun gave me a schedule for our meetings. At the top of the page: JMJ. At the bottom, below her signature, a cross. The whole note was wrapped in prayerful intention. I still have it. Sometimes I remember to put a cross at the top of my page, but I just sent out 50 Christmas cards, and didn’t remember to do it, even once. It is a habit I
would like to cultivate."
Church in Transformation

The Journal-News's Gary Stern blogs today: "We all know that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is quickly becoming an Hispanic church, but how much attention has been given to what this really means?" He then points to some attention being given to the matter. See http://religion.lohudblogs.com/2009/12/09/the-big-catholic-story/

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hiking Anthony's Nose

Hiking Anthony's Nose

That's it in the photo above, at the eastern end of the Bear Mountain Bridge, rising some 1,200 feet above the Hudson River (according to the Britannica). In any case, it's a long way up (or down--see photo below, which was taken from an overlook before we reached the summit).

Last Sunday was a perfect day for being outdoors, so Bro. Tom and I went out for a hike after Mass. We wanted to do the rest of the Camp Smith Trail, which we started on Aug. 30 (blogged way down below) but couldn't finish on account of time. Well, that was ONE reason we couldn't finish.

So on this perfect Sunday late morning-afternoon we drove up Rte. 6 to the 2d hiker's parking spot along the trail. When we arrived around noon, the little lot was already jammed, so we parked on the shoulder (as did others after us) and hit the trail.
We had plenty of company, both human and canine. It took us a good hour to reach the summit, what with stops to enjoy some views and stops to catch our breath/rest our legs a little. The 2d part of the trail isn't as difficult as the 1st part (up from the visitor's center), but it's still a good climb, including some downs and ups, not just ups. In fact, about halfway toward the summit from that 2d parking lot, you get this view of what you still have to surmount:Unlike the last time I hiked this part of the trail (Aug. 2005), it was pretty wet in places, and all the fallen leaves made footing treacherous often. Plus, there were no blueberries and raspberries!
We didn't count, but we must have met 2 dozen people coming or going, and at least 5 dogs. Two of the former and 1 of the latter are enjoying their lunch at the summit:
The dog subsequently tried also to enjoy Bro. Tom's lunch but left disappointed. (I couldn't get the camera fast enuf to catch the better action!)
Another hiker (also accompanied by a pooch) obliged us by shooting us. You can get an idea of the rugged terrain altho the better view, of course, would have been over the river somehow. But the sun was in a bad spot for that.
When you see the views, you want to soak them in, even photograph them, and that appeals also to youngsters:

It took us a good 45 minutes to get back down to the van (without any significant rest stops, but being very careful of our footing), and we had time to clean up before Evening Prayer!

You can read about Anthony's Nose, including speculations about the origin of the name, on the Web at see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony) and http://nynjctbotany.org/lgtofc/nyanthonys.html
2nd Sunday of Advent

I didn't have to preach today. But there's a fine homily from Deacon Greg Kandra at his blog:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/deaconsbench/2009/12/homily-for-december-6-2009-2nd-sunday-of-advent.html